Skip to main content
History of The Open

The Open


England's long and illustrious history

Nick Faldo

It might be 28 years since we saw Sir Nick Faldo stand with his arms aloft on the 72nd green at Muirfield as the last English winner of The Open.

But in the 148 times the historic competition has been played, we have seen our fair share of winners who represent the flag of St George.

Ever since John Ball claimed success as an amateur at Prestwick in 1890, there have been 13 different English winners of the Claret Jug. Four of those even went on to get their hands on the silverware more than once, with John Henry Taylor stealing the show with five victories over the turn of the last century.

The early stages of the 1900s seemed to be the pinnacle of English success, with the world’s top golfers coming to these shores and leaving empty handed on six successive occasions from 1934-39. 

The most outlandish result came in 1938, when Reg Whitcombe survived gale force winds at Royal St George’s – host to this year’s Open – to come home in a score of +15 and scoop the £100 prize money.

After a six-year hiatus during World War Two, the English domination of The Open came to an end, with victories being few and far between.

Henry Cotton claimed his third Claret Jug in 1948 and Max Faulkner took top prize at Royal Portrush three years later, but a generation then passed by without success as the elusive search for another English winner lasted 18 years. 

Then stepped forward Tony Jacklin.

Tony Jacklin

After honing his game in the USA, the then-25-year-old is still the last Englishman to win the event on home soil after taking the win at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s in 1969.

After going so long without a victory, a raucous 20,000 strong crowd urged the Scunthorpe-born star on to success in Lancashire, although sometimes a little too eagerly.

“When I was walking up the 18th some enthusiastic fan stepped on my heel and my shoe came off,” Jacklin said after sinking the winning putt.

“But I didn’t really mind at that stage of the game. Maybe I was lucky even to get the shoe back.”

This year is the 50th since Jacklin’s success, as the search for another English winner on an English course continues.

But England hasn’t been completely starved of success in the years in between, after a triple helping of sublimity in Scotland by Faldo. 

A collapse from Paul Azinger on the Muirfield back nine gifted the Hertfordshire-man his first victory in 1987, before playing a sublime weekend of golf at St Andrews in 1990.

After already taking a second Masters success earlier in the year, a five-shot victory secured his place among the golfing elite, as he led from Friday onwards in Fife.

Then ever since the aforementioned third victory in 1992 we have been searching for the next English victor and have had some exciting thrills and spills along the way.

1998 is one such time, when an exciting, effervescent 17-year-old talent by the name of Justin Rose burst onto the scene.

Justin Rose

There had been talk about the young prodigy in the build up to the tournament, and Rose announced himself to the golfing world with a joint-fourth-placed finish as an amateur at Royal Birkdale.             

And what a way to finish. The burgundy jumper, the white shirt, up to his ankles in rough on the 18th, Rose proceeded to hole from all of 50 yards with his approach shot. He has only surpassed that result once since, a tied second-placed finish in 2018.

And then we have the also-rans, the what-could-have-beens.

As Stewart Cink and Tom Watson battled out the 2009 play-off, Lee Westwood would have been steaming from the ears. Heading in to the 18th in fine fettle, he then found the bunker with his tee-shot, before a three-putt on the green left his, and his fans’, dreams in tatters for another year.

Rose was in contention at Carnoustie in 2018, finishing just two strokes behind eventual Champion Golfer Francesco Molinari, while Tommy Fleetwood finished second last year behind Shane Lowry.

Royal St George’s has a knack of throwing up surprise winners of The Open, with Darren Clarke and Ben Curtis the two previous winners in Kent. So it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility that we see another rogue champion this year, could it be an Englishman?